Marshall Trimble John Selman True West Magazine

Was John Selman a bad guy?

Ron Bolza
Slatington, Pennsylvania

John Henry Selman was, at best, a badly flawed character. During his checkered career, he was a peace officer, vigilante, cold-blooded killer, livestock thief and a back shooter.

In the guise of chasing cattle rustlers on the Texas range in 1873, Selman and John Larn murdered eight cowboys.

During the late 1870s, Selman formed an outlaw group, “Selman’s Rangers,” which was accused of rape, murder and robbery in New Mexico Territory.

Selman is best remembered for what he did on the evening of August 19, 1895, at the Acme Saloon in El Paso, Texas: walked up behind one of the West’s deadliest killers, John Wesley Hardin, and put a bullet in the back of his head. Then he fired three more rounds into his body just to make sure Hardin was dead.

Eight months later, Selman was on the wrong side of a shoot-out with lawman George Scarborough.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

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